Philosophy: December 2003 Archives

MBTI and Philosophers

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I got David Keirsey's Please Understand Me II for Christmas, so I've been thinking a lot about personality type. Most philosophers I know tend to be ENTP or INTP, with some INTJ or ENTJ. Almost all of the philosophers whose type I know or can guess easily fall into those four types. I, on the other hand, am ISTJ, so I'm been wondering how personality type affects the interests and work of philosophers. For instance, I'm pretty sure William Alston is also ISTJ, and his work is pretty distinctive. Rather than coming up with a whole philosophical perspective, he tends to survey and evaluate the work already out there, developing things in smaller ways than the systematic work of a David Lewis. I tend to be better at drawing distinctions and working out the possible views than I am at developing a position of my own. I'm certainly much better at criticizing arguments than I am at offering any new ones.

Philosophers reading this who know (or are pretty sure of) the personality type of influential philosophers or philosophers I know, then I'd be interested in knowing what it is. If you have any insights into how this affects philosophers' interests of work, I'd also appreciate your thoughts.

For more info. on Myers-Briggs types, see David Keirsey's site, Personality Pathways, or this nice summary.

Check out the latest web test to determine something about yourself that you should but probably don't already know. It asks you questions about your ethical views and then tells you how much you match up with some of the most influential ethical theorists. I'm wondering how different it would be if the questions were practical rather than theoretical. They even give somewhat informative descriptions for the uninitiated (some of which are more informative than others). My list:

Aquinas 100%
Augustine 95%
Spinoza 68%
Aristotle 63%
Ockham 56%
Nel Noddings 51%
John Stuart Mill 49%
Kant 49%
Plato 46%
Cynics 39%
Ayn Rand 36%
Jean-Paul Sartre 36%
Jeremy Bentham 36%
Stoics 36%
Prescriptivism 34%
David Hume 28%
Nietzsche 23%
Epicureans 22%
Thomas Hobbes 4%

In the list of descriptions for the various philosophers, they also had Simone de Beauvoir and Utilitarianism in general (as opposed to Mill or Bentham's specific versions). I guess I had a 0% match to them, which doesn't surprise me.

I would have expected the Stoics to be higher. Everything else below the Cynics deserves to be very low. Mill should have been far lower. It doesn't surprise me that I half match Noddings' feminist ethic of care. I really do agree with about half of what she says. I'm wondering why Ayn Rand was higher than Epicureanism. I think Epicurus' version of ethical egoism is far better than hers. Of course, his hedonism may be affecting it, since she didn't say anything quite so strong, but then his qualifications of it reveal that he didn't either.

They didn't frame the questions right if they really wanted to see if someone matches Aquinas. The only divine option they had for the source of morality is God's will, never thinking to mention God's necessary nature. The closest they had to that was some impersonal holistic forces (which might explain the high Spinoza thing, but the Stoics and Plato should have gotten as much of a boost from that). Theologically speaking, Augustine should have been higher than Aquinas, but maybe the virtue influence on my thinking puts Aquinas higher.

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